Peers in the Grad Program – Enriched By Diversity

Undergraduate days are marked by classes, study sessions, and parties. Often, a lifelong friendship or two develops. While graduate days are marked by volumes and volumes of work, lifelong friendships as we knew them in our undergraduate studies seem less likely because, if we are not attempting to read 100 pages of text in one night, we are writing the next great 25-page Journal of Business and Technical Communication article. Nonetheless, peer relationships play an important role especially in a smaller, more intimate program like the Rhetoric, Theory, and Culture program at Michigan Technological University.

We come to Michigan Tech’s RTC program from very diverse backgrounds. Some of us studied or worked as technical communicators. Many of us did not; instead, we were educators, media relations specialists, linguists, or creative writers. We are an assortment of recent graduates to well-seasoned working professionals. It is this diversity that enriches our three (for MS students) or four (for PhD students) semesters of coursework. Graduate classes are discussion based, providing us with the opportunity to reflect on the required readings and their implications. In these discussions, our collective scope enhances each person’s theoretical understandings and philosophical thoughts. And, despite our differences, we develop a common language and a shared sense of humor.

Our diversity can be expressed through our coursework as well. The Rhetoric, Theory, and Culture program allows us to choose niches of study most suited to our backgrounds and interests. So, for example, we can indulge in coursework concentrating on rhetorical theory, or highlighting the relationship between technical communication and technology, or examining the effects of communications on culture and vice versa. In this way, we are able to achieve our future ambitions that range from academic posts to industry positions. Now, we relate to each other as peers—assisting one another in our studies and helping each other laugh when the graduate road is a little rocky—and soon we will be one another’s colleagues.